Top 5 Late-Fall Hot Spots
October 22, 2010
If you haven’t winterized and stored your boat by the end of October, you’re probably one of those anglers who keep hoping the season’s not over yet. Well, it’s not over, not by a long shot. I can’t vouch for the waters north of Boston, unless cod, haddock and pollock are on your hit list, but from Cape Cod south there is usually good action to be had with striped bass, bluefish and tautog through November, sometimes deep into December if the weather holds.
Ah, the weather. That’s the biggest factor when it comes to getting on the water. At this time of year you need the flexibility to pick your days and launch when the window opens. Also, fishing in an open boat with a rime of ice on deck takes true commitment, and tying knots and landing fish with wind-chilled fingers can be downright painful. Still, if you take the time to dress warmly and pack plenty of coffee, not to mention safety gear, you could enjoy decent fishing until Thanksgiving, especially if you keep the following 5 hot spots on your radar.
1. Block Island
“The Block” is a major stopover for striped bass and bluefish as they migrate south in the fall. Southwest Ledge in particular can hold big bass and blues right through November. Top strategies include trolling parachute jigs and tube-and-worm combos on wire line, as well as drifting live eels. Vertical jigging with diamond jigs and Ron-Z or Hogy lures will also take fish here. As a bonus, you can send down a green crab on a bottom rig and catch tautog here.
Southwest Ledge is fairly easy to reach from several ports, including Point Judith (16 nm), Stonington (16 nm) and Ninigret Pond (14 nm). All these locations have launch ramps for trailerboaters. One important caveat: when fishing the ledge, note that half of it lies in federal waters, which are off-limits to striped bass fishing. If you are targeting stripers, only do so within the state boundary.
2. Martha’s Vineyard
Much like Block Island’s Southwest Ledge, the rocky reef known as Devil’s Bridge off the southwest corner of Martha’s Vineyard often holds bass and blues into November. It’s not as sure a bet as Block, but anglers who can get out there often score big and have the place to themselves.
Devil’s Bridge runs from 10 to 35 feet of water, and is a great spot for diamond-jigging and vertical jigging with soft-plastics. Drifting live eels and wire-line trolling with parachute jigs and tubes also work well. Be prepared and bring all of the above weapons!
Best spots to launch from the mainland to reach Devils Bridge are Westport and Padanarum Harbor (S. Dartmouth), both in Massachusetts, and both approximately 14 nm away.
3. Western Long Island Sound
Western Long Island Sound holds big stripers and bluefish well into December some years. The deep (20-50’) reefs are the places to fish at this time, and diamond-jigging is the best way to score. When diamond jigging, drop the jig all the way to the bottom and work it towards the surface with sweeps of the rod, allowing the jig to flutter down each time you lower the rod. If diamond-jigging isn’t doing the job, try chunking with sections bunker (menhaden).
Good jumping-off spots for hitting the western-Sound reefs include Norwalk, Bridgeport and Stamford. Give Rick Mola and his staff at Fisherman’s World (203-866-1075) a call before making the trek to see if the bite is strong.
Montauk needs no introduction among Northeast anglers, many of whom regard it as the Shangri la of fishing. This hot spot routinely produces striped bass well into November (I have caught keepers here up to Thanksgiving). Weather is the main factor in getting to the Point, but it’s not a bad run from Connecticut if you get a window. Just watch the weather so you can get back safety, as the weather can change fast at this time of year. Once you arrive, you can catch fish using a variety of methods. Trolling tube-and-worm combos on wire line and drifting live eels over the shoals and reefs (Endeavor, Shagwong, Phelps) are the most common techniques, although it’s sometimes possible to catch fish on topwater plugs if you happen to find them feeding on top (always keep an eye out for working birds). Also, if you get bored of catching stripers and want to try a different species, send down some green crabs for blackfish.
Best launching spots for reaching Montauk from Connecticut include Stonington (15 nm) and New London (18 nm) and Niantic (21 nm).
5. South County, Rhode Island
The western beaches and breachways from Point Judith to Watch Hill can produce fantastic action with big fish deep into November. As a bonus, this stretch of coast offers some measure of protection in stiff westerly winds. The big factor is the presence of bait, namely sea herring (also called “sawbellies”). If the herring schools move in close to the beaches, the action with big bass and blues can be off the charts.
You’re most likely find fish on top right at dawn, but after that they tend to go deep. Look for flocks of high-diving gannets to point the way to the action. If you can mark the bait schools on your sounder, you can bet that stripers are nearby. Trolling a deep-diving plug or vertical jigging with dianond jigs and big soft-plastic paddletail swimbaits can work well. Many pros also slow-troll bunker spoons around the herring schools. If you can jig up some herring with a Sabiki rig, use them for bait.
The South Country beaches can be reached from either Point Judith or Watch Hill and Stonington. All 3 spots have good launch ramps. You can also launch from Ninigret Pond in Charlestown or Quonny Pond, but the breachways leading to the ocean require local knowledge or calm conditions if you are not familiar with the area.